Been away from your computer this week and missed all the automotive news? We’ve gathered a few of the top stories of the past week for your convenience.
Audi has restyled its supercar, and this is our first look at the design of the new R8. The front bumper, headlights, and grille are all new, as are the LED taillights and chrome exhaust tips. But even more updates lie under the sheetmetal: the R8 receives a new seven-speed dual-clutch transmission that improves acceleration and reduces fuel consumption. There also is a new R8 V10 Plus model with 550 hp (up from 525 hp in normal V-10 models) that can top 197 mph and hit 62 mph in 3.5 seconds.
Chevrolet has released pictures of its 2013 NASCAR Nationwide Series race car -- and it's styled to look almost exactly like the 2013 Chevrolet Camaro street car. The styling effort is mostly contained to the front clip, but the racer's grille, headlights, and fascia design are extremely close to those of the real-world Camaro. Previously, the Chevrolet Nationwide car was supposed to look like an Impala SS. Next year's Chevrolet Sprint Cup car will look like the forthcoming 2014 Chevrolet SS sedan.
Mazda dished some more dirt on the 2014 6 sedan this week. The new midsize car will make its official debut at the Moscow Motor Show next month -- not the Paris show in September as we had previously expected. Moreover, Mazda revealed that the Russian show car will use the same SkyActiv 2.0-liter inline-four engine as the CX-5 crossover and 3 sedan/hatchback. That could allow the Mazda 6 to become one of the most efficient cars in its class. More teaser photos reveal that the new car has daring styling that borrows heavily from the earlier Takeri concept car. Bulging fenders, bright chrome trim, and upswept headlights create a stark appearance.
Kia this week showed off a rendering of its next Cerato sedan, which will be sold in America as the Forte. In other words, expect a new version of the Kia Forte within a year or two. This model has much more exciting styling than the current Forte, with the so-called tiger grille and blocky headlights from other new Kias, as well as an arching character line and coupe-like roof. How much of that language will translate from show-car to production model remains to be seen. Kia promises we'll see the new Cerato in the flesh later this year; the Forte will probably debut here in early 2013.
After an investigation into reports of unintended acceleration, Ford recalled 485,000 Escape SUVs. On models with the optional V-6 engine, there may not be enough space between the cruise-control cable and the engine cover. If the cable snags when the accelerator is depressed almost all the way, it could snag and cause the throttle to stick open. Ford plans to inspect affected models and disable the cruise control until it can provide replacement parts.
When our spy photographers found this Mercedes-Benz S-Class prototype in the California desert, they managed to snap pictures of its new interior. Not only will Mercedes redesign the steering wheel and dashboard in its flagship model, but the new S-Class also stands to get updated control switches for the Command infotainment system. That includes a bowl-shaped arrangement of shortcut buttons around the familiar silver Command joystick, as well as a new, wider color screen atop the center stack. The dashboard loses its central bulge in favor of a single-plane design, and swaps rectangular slat-type air vents for circular ones. Finally, the familiar S-Class four-spoke steering wheel gives way to an interesting new two-spoke design.
The good news: the 2013 Chevrolet Spark is very fuel efficient. The bad news: it doesn't quite the magical 40-mpg figure. The EPA says Chevrolet's four-door subcompact will return 32/38 mpg (city/highway) with a five-speed manual transmission, or 28/37 mpg with a four-speed automatic. If those figures aren't class-leading (several rivals manage 40 mpg on the highway), at least the entry price is low. Chevrolet has priced the base Spark from just $12,995 after destination.
Driven: 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Volkswagen E-Bugster Concept, 2013 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, 2013 Cadillac ATS
This week we drove nearly every type of vehicle: electric concept, luxury SUV, sport sedan, and quotidian crossover. The 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD is designed to help reel in snow-fearing buyers who want the S60's base engine. Adding all-wheel drive doesn't compromise the S60's looks or interior, so we find it easy to love the new model. It may just be a concept, but the Volkswagen E-Bugster Concept is actively being considered for production. Unfortunately, an extremely limited test drive didn't allow us to ascertain anything other than the fact that it is, indeed, electrically powered. The 2013 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class has been revamped with new engines, new styling, and even more power. It remains a fantastic, luxurious SUV -- even if it's hard to fathom a rational argument for buying the seven-seat Mercedes. Finally, the 2013 Cadillac ATS proves that an American car company really can compete with the best from Germany. On a race track and public roads, the ATS proves as capable and sporty a sedan as its European rivals.